I would like to preface by saying that this is not a review. Reviews are balanced, constructive, and unbiased. This is none of those things. This is my extremely unbalanced account of how I completely fell in love with Hedwig and the Angry Inch (and Andrew Rannells’ flawless portrayal of the title character) at the Belasco Theater last night.
Oh, and also, no matter what I say, I still love Neil Patrick Harris always and forever. Okay, let’s go.
When I first heard the news that Neil Patrick Harris would be headlining a Broadway revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch (almost a year ago, sitting in the Broadway.com office), I knew I would have to see it. Because of its cult following? No. Because of the acclaimed music and book Obviously false. Because of the way it has exploded across the world, played to thousands of different audiences, and even become a feature film?? Of course not.
Because my Hollywood crush, Mr. Neil Patrick Harris (don’t even mention his sexual preference to me…I (begrudgingly) already know) was starring.
Fast forward a year later- to my graduation present/ sisters’ weekend/ Broadway trip to NYC. On the roster? A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder (2014 Best Musical- self explanatory), Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Pippin (at sister’s request, although I won’t complain about a shirtless Kyle Dean Massey and getting to see Rachel Bay Jones’ hilarious performance all over again), and Hedwig and the Angry Inch…starring Broadway veteran and Girls star Andrew Rannells. Granted, I knew about this casting change back when I bought the tickets (Neil’s Tony performance of Sugar Daddy got me on the “see it not just for NPH but for the integrity of the show” bandwagon), but sitting in our seats at the Belasco Theater, I couldn’t help but wish we’d been there a few weeks before to see the Tony winner and How I Met Your Mother star in the flesh instead.
Well, that thinking went completely out the window maybe 30 seconds into Rannells’ rendition of “Tear Me Down.”
I saw Rannells as Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys back in the day, and I saw him slay the role of Elder Price in The Book of Mormon. I knew he was talented. I didn’t know he was a freaking ROCK STAR. I am not at all ashamed to question if Rannells’ performance rivaled Neil Patrick Harris’. That- I’m telling you- is how phenomenal it was.
What begins as a C-list concert- set in the Belasco Theater (the previous home of immense failure The Hurt Locker: The Musical- with its set still in tact)- right outside internationally famous Tommy Gnosis’ sold out concert- quickly, and undeniably enjoyably- turns into the hilarious, entertaining, and moving story of Hedwig.
Set amongst catchy and extremely well-written numbers such as “Sugar Daddy” (YouTube Neil’s Tony Award performance for that one- actually- I’ll just put it below. You’re welcome), “Angry Inch”, and “Wig in a Box”, Hedwig tells the audience the story of his life.
With a perfect combination of wit, irony, and sass, the audience learns of Hedwig’s- formerly Hansel’s- journey of love, heartbreak, and music. A “slip of a girly boy” born in East Berlin to a single mother, Hedwig suffered a botched sex change operation (hence, the Angry Inch) whilst attempting to escape to America with husband, U.S. soldier Luther. Once that relationship fails (Luther leaves him on their first wedding anniversary), Hedwig meets aspiring musician, looking-for-the-meaning-of-life, lost boy Tommy. Together, the two write songs and fall in love- Hedwig believing Tommy is his fated “other half,” until confusion, embarrassment, fame, not to mention the Angry Inch, chase Tommy away.
Oh, did I mention this is pretty much a two person show? Yet Rannells himself makes Hedwig’s story comes alive more vividly than a thirty-piece company could.
Now, amongst husband Yitzchak (played by Tony winner Lena Hall) and his five-piece band, Hedwig performs a one night only set, accompanied by this ongoing monologue.
What would seem- at least in the synopsis- as a cold, depressing story, is absolutely anything but. John Cameron Mitchell’s hilarious (I wish there was a word that meant funnier than hilarious), literally laugh-out-loud script, Stephen Trask’s catchy, memorable, and upbeat score, and Rannells heart, energy, improv, and obvious passion and love for both his character and this show, made me wishing an hour and a half was much, much longer.
Now, with the soundtrack sitting on my iPhone (and fated to be played on loop for at least the next few weeks, I’m sure), I’m literally looking at my signed Playbill right now wishing I could see it again. Well this is anything but your typical, run of the mill, ensemble musical (and for the immature, faint of heart and those who cringe and the mention of a curse word or a sexual reference- run the other direction), it is without a doubt one of the most impressive and animated nights on Broadway you will have. Andrew Rannells is a revelation- if it were possible to give Tony Awards to replacements; he’d without a doubt take home the prize. Making the audience fall in love with a book or a score is the easy part- it speaks for itself. Making the audience fall in love with a character, with all of his or her flaws, is a bit harder. Rannells makes it look easy.
Rannells received a packed, warm welcome at the stage door probably rivaling Neil Patrick Harris’ stage door experience- and one just as deserved. If this story about staying true to yourself and chasing your dreams taught me absolutely anything last night, it’s that Rannells needs to keep doing exactly what he was born to do- gracing the Broadway stage…preferably as Hedwig.
Here’s hoping this musical gets an extension- so I can go and see it again.